MIAMI – An endangered Matchie's tree kangaroo from New Guinea has begun to peek out of its mother's pouch at Zoo Miami.
"After several hours of patiently waiting for our newest Matchie's tree kangaroo joey to peak out of the pouch, I was rewarded with a few seconds of exposure where I was able to fire off some of the attached images," said Zoo Miami's Ron Magill.
It is still basically hairless and confined to the pouch where it will continue to develop for the next several months before venturing away from its mother. It will not be totally weaned until it is around a year old.
"For over 3 hours, I could see the pouch moving as the joey repositioned itself but never letting her head peak out of the pouch. I would see an arm, a foot, the tail, and even an ear, but never the face," Magill said.
Though it is just now peeking out, this joey is believed to have actually been born approximately 5 months ago.
"Just as I was about to call it a day, she stood up and this adorable little head popped out with a yawn and then looked right up at mom as if to say, 'Hello!' She gave me about 10 seconds to fire off some of the attached frames as she gently inspected the baby and then back in it went," Magill said.
As with most marsupials, tree kangaroos are born in an almost embryonic state after a pregnancy of about 44 days. The newborn is only the size of a jelly bean and slowly crawls into the mother's pouch where it locks onto a nipple and then the majority of development takes place.
The first-time mother is 3 1/2 years old and is on loan from the Brownsville Zoo in Texas and the 5-year-old father is on loan from the Bronx Zoo in New York.
As part of the breeding loan agreement, the female offspring belongs to the Brownsville Zoo and will eventually become part of an international captive breeding program.
Zoo Miami has been a long time contributor to Matchie's tree kangaroo conservation efforts in the wilds of New Guinea.
Matchie's tree kangaroos live at high elevations in the Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea where they spend most of their time up in trees feeding on a variety of leaves, ferns, moss and bark. They are believed to be solitary animals and the only strong social bond formed is between a mother and her offspring.
This new mother and her joey will remain off exhibit for several weeks to allow for proper bonding and to help facilitate a smooth introduction for this wonderful new addition.
"It looks like something between a hairless fruit bat and an alien but is very cute in its own special way," said Zoo Miami's Ron Magill.